This is a continuation of the posts I have been writing using the food ingredients touted by the NYT as the 10 best foods we normally don’t think to consume (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/30) /the-11-best-foods-you-arent-eating. On top of this list are beets. I have already posted a recipe for a beet soup here. Today, I want to post a recipe for beet toran, a toran being a type of curry with roots in southwest India (Kerala). The idea here is to temper beets and onions with an infusion of cooking oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, ginger and dried red peppers and cook till the beat crunch is just on its way out. I also add potatoes to provide textural contrast to the crunch of the beets, but you could leave ‘em out if that does not appeal. This dish is tranformed in the last 5-10 min when grated coconut is added. As the coconot gets roasted, it releases coconut oil (this oil is good for you, until further notice) and provides a nutty, toasted coconut flavor. I serve it with rice and raita or some lentil/dal concoction. The next day, I take it to work rolled in whole wheat tortillas.
For the infusion:
3 tbs. oil
1 tsp Black mustard seeds
6-8 Curry leaves or more (available at Indian grocery stores, leave out if you cant find them)
1 dried red chili broken into pieces (optional)
1 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic
3 medium sized red beets, grated in the food processor.
3 medium sized potatoes microwaved till nearly done (10 min in my dinosaur microwave).
½ cup grated unsweetened coconut (thawed if using frozen coconut- available at Indian grocery stores)
1 tsp coriander powder
Pinch of Asofoetida (hing)
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika (adds color and flavor, but no heat)
1 ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
cilantro for garnish (if desired)
Mince the ginger and garlic and grate the beets in a food processor (this would be very tedious if using a box grater). Heat cooking oil in a large wok (I use a 14” Chinese wok) or cast iron pan. When the oil gets hot, add the mustard seeds, asofoetida, curry leaves, dried chillies, garlic and ginger till the seeds sputter and a delicious aroma fills your kitchen. Add the beets, then the coriander, turmeric, salt, paprika and stir to mix. Allow beats to cook till they nearly lose their crunch (about 10 min on fairly high heat). The idea is not to allow the beets to release water and steam in their own juices, you want the stir fried taste. Now add the potatoes and continue to stir till the potatoes turn bright read (1-2 minutes). Add grated coconut and allow the coconut to heat up, release oil and get just slightly browned- about 5-7 min. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with rice and lentils or naan and raita.
The times provided here are for a wok, which is very thin walled and heats up to a high heat. A cast iron pan would also do nicely. Adjust the heat if using a steel pan.
Note: Do not throw the beet stems and leaves. You can chop them into this right here. But if you are a purist, they can be used in a soup or a Chinese stirfry at a later time.